A lot of the tips you hear about picking ripe produce seem more superstitious than scientific (the jury is still out on the knock test for watermelon). There are many tried-and-true indicators, though, and a few other factors to consider before you start inspecting.
Seasonality: While there is a certain magic to the combination of peak season and perfectly ripe, modern agriculture can allow us to enjoy ripe produce year-round. So while peak season is without a doubt superior, you can still use some of these tips in the off-season.
Sense test: Look, touch, and smell can all help you gauge ripeness. Look and touch might take a bit of practice, but great-smelling melon, strawberries, and mango should be easy (and delightful) to identify.
Ethylene: If you’ve ever brought home ripe produce only to find it’s become super overripe by morning, it might be because you placed the fruit next to food that produces ethylene. Ethylene is a gas some fruits emit that can hasten ripening. It’s totally natural and not a problem, especially if you take a moment to make sure your ethylene-producing fruits are stored away from the rest.
Below, more-specific guidelines and recipes for fourteen beloved fruits.